By Francis Igata
Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo’s emergence as the first female deputy governor in Enugu State has gender activists excited that barriers against women are being broken down.
Created in 1991, Enugu State has never had a woman occupy the exalted office of governor or deputy governor, the two top positions in the state that have essentially been dominated by men who relegated women to the background. It was as such a matter of excitement among women activists at the end of last year when the announcement of Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo was announced as the running mate to Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi when he emerged as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governorship candidate.
Observers quickly poured encomiums and eulogies on Ugwuanyi’s decision which they said was a strategic political masterstroke to woo majority of the electorates who comprised of women and youths mostly. But political pundits were however not astonished at Ugwuanyi’s decision to run with a female deputy hinging their stance on Ugwuanyi’s political prowess to galvanise the needed support for their victory.
Another school of thought maintained that Ugwuanyi was mindful of the wind of change billowing across the country as more women have occupied sensitive positions in government hitherto reserved for the men.
During President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to Enugu for his presidential rally at the Nnamdi Azikwe stadium last November, Ugwuanyi had described Ezeilo as a gift to the people of Enugu State insisting that his administration will have a human face having a mother as his deputy who would provide the soothing balm of peace and progress to calm politically frayed nerves.
Ezeilo, a lawyer and widow of late Chief Malachy Ezeilo, a traditional ruler and a one-time Commissioner for Works during the old Anambra State learned the robe and shot to limelight riding on her husband’s crest.
She was elected into the Enugu State House of Assembly in 2011. During her stint at the House, she served as the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary where she adopted the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism, ADRM, as a faster and better means of resolving public disputes arising from numerous public petitions sent to her committee.
It was during her rein that the legislature and judiciary experienced a pronounced industrial harmony as separate arms of government. Her instincts as a mother may have inspired her motion while she was in the House for a bill to cater for the needs of people with special needs. Her quest to empower and ensure jobs for the teeming unemployed women, youths in Enugu State, again, motivated her to move a motion for the re-activation of the moribund Cashew Industry, Ezeagu as a panacea to the plight of women and youths of the state.
The soaring rate of auto crashes in around the state caught her attention as she also, moved a motion at the House which sought to ensure that vehicle drivers undergo driving examinations before drivers license are issued to them. The idea behind the motion was to reduce the death rate associated with auto crashes in the state.
Expectedly, the emergence of a female deputy governor has provoked joy among gender activists who are naming the yet to be inaugurated Ugwuanyi as the most gender friendly government in the annals of Enugu history. Mrs. Mary-Jane Mbagwu who was visibly elated said, “May 29 will open a new horizon for women empowerment in the state. Her position as deputy governor will add impetus for more women to aspire and attain more sensitive government positions.
“Ugwuanyi’s choice of female deputy has broken a jinx in the state and has endeared him to women and youths who form the greater majority of the electorates. His choice of female deputy is a Midas touch that will galvanise his re-election bid come 2019 when Enugu State will experience the most keenly contested election given the presence of an All Progressives Congress, APC, led administration at the centre.”
Another respondent, Mrs. Ngozi Ossai charged the deputy governor-elect not to lower her guard but to rather, up the ante to justify the confidence reposed on her in the cause of discharging her duty. According to her, “Ezeilo should roll her sleeves and brace up for the task ahead. She is carrying on her shoulders, the expectations of over 3 million women and children of the state.
Issues of women empowerment, child rights, women battery, rape, child abuse, girl child education, maternal healthcare services among others should be prominent in her agenda. “She should walk in the path of late Prof. Dora Akuyili, Oby Ezekwesili among others to etch her name in gold.” Only time will tell if she will serve as a rallying point towards women emancipation in the scheme of things in Enugu State to bring the state at par with others like Lagos, Ekiti, Anambra among others where women had held sway as deputy governors.